In December last year, four prisoners escaped from Tafa’igata Prison. Among them was a notorious criminal convicted of tying up a man while raping his wife at knifepoint at Tiavi the year before.
The good news at the time was that Lauititi Tualima was immediately recaptured. A few days later, the other two escaped prisoners, Vaioa Solia and Aniseko Vaelei, were also captured. Which means one more remained on the run.
He is Uili Manuleleua.
“The Police are appealing to members of the public for their assistance in order to catch this prisoner,” a notice from the Police at the time said. “The public is also advised not to approach the prisoner directly as he is considered aggressive and dangerous but urgently report it to Police at phone number 22222.”
“The S.P.S. would like to ensure the public that their safety is our priority at this time of the year and the police are working around the clock to catch these criminals.”
Well that was in December 2017.
Today is Thursday 5 April 2018, which means that three months later, Manuleleua has continued to evade capture and he is enjoying freedom just like all law-abiding citizens out there.
What has happened to the Police search, we don’t know. Suffice to say, how hard is it to find an escaped prisoner in Samoa? It’s a small country where everybody knows somebody. Manuleleua must come from a family in a village somewhere in either Upolu, Savai’i, Apolima or Manono. It shouldn’t be that difficult to locate him. And yet, here we are approaching the middle of 2018 and there has not been a single word on his whereabouts.
But then this is hardly surprising. When it comes to prisoners running away and staying far from prison, Manuleleua is not the first. We’ve had many similar cases in the past. Not so long ago one prisoner escaped from Tafaigata and somehow managed to board a plane bound for Australia. He hasn’t been back since.
Which is ironic if you ask for our opinion. What’s happening at Tafaigata with prisoners running away and evading capture is a bit like the story of Samoa today. That as long as criminals and dodgy individuals who are supposed to be in jail are living among us, we can never feel totally safe.
The truth is that the Government and the relevant authorities have up until this point failed to deal with instances of “corrupt practices”, “collusion” and mismanagement highlighted by the Chief Auditor and the Officers of Parliament Committee.
These instances have been publicised in detail on the pages of your newspaper time and time again. And yet nothing has been done about them. Which means that there are people who should be in prison mingling among us today.
As long as that is the case, who needs a prison? Why does it surprise us then that criminals are doing whatever they feel like? Aren’t they merely products of the system they have been brought up in?
Let us remind you once again that one of the very basic pillars of a peaceful country is the ability of the Government to guarantee the safety and security of its residents.
In other words, for people of any country to live happily together, there has to be peace and freedom. For peace and freedom to become a reality, law and order must be firmly established.
It means that people’s security should be the Government’s first priority. This is not the case, looking at what’s happening. What is happening reflects negligence and poor planning; it shows the lack of importance given to the issue.
Quite often when these things happen, we tend to view them as isolated incidents in an attempt to make sense of it all.
It’s a natural reaction and it’s not wrong. We do it all the time.
But when we step back a bit to take a look at the bigger picture, the idea that prisoners wander in and out of Tafa’igata Prison at will is perhaps telling us something far more sinister about Samoa today.
In our opinion, as a country, we have adopted such a relaxed attitude towards criminals and wrongdoing. It has become acceptable. It’s almost like we’ve accepted injustice as the norm.
How many times have we heard things like it’s just another case of corruption? Another theft? Another robbery? Another rape? Another domestic violence incident? Another prison escapee? And the list goes on.
When are we going to wake up and realise that this is not normal?
Now let’s begin with the idea that prisoners belong in jail and that a prison is supposed to house them for their entire sentence. That’s right; people become prisoners when they break the law. There is a price to pay. A big part of that is being deprived of the privileges law-abiding citizens are entitled to – including freedom of movement.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about some of the most dangerous criminal minds in this country. They obviously feel that they are above the law and they can do whatever they want.
Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar, when we think about some of the more recent cases of abuse of public properties and corrupt practises that have been highlighted?
Isn’t it ironic that some of the poorest members of the public are jailed for stealing as little as $50 while the big fish get away with incidents involving millions?
Some of these people are still driving around in flash pimped out taxpayer-funded vehicles and living a life of luxury while their deeds remain unpunished. In this country, who is prosecuted and who is not? Who is carried and who is made to walk? Are there different laws for different people? Does it surprise anyone then that criminals at Tafa’igata are acting the way they do?
Have a safe Thursday Samoa, God bless!